Native Trail bids to cement his place at the top of ante-posts lists for the Qipco 2000 Guineas with victory in the bet365 Craven Stakes at Newmarket.
Charlie Appleby’s charge will be a short price to stretch his unbeaten record to five after rounding off a flawless juvenile campaign with victory in the Dewhurst Stakes here in October.
That was his second top-level win after previously landing the National Stakes at the Curragh, ensuring he ended 2021 as the top-rated two-year-old in Europe.
Appleby believes Wednesday’s Guineas trial will “help click his racing brain back into gear” ahead of his bid for Classic honours at the end of the month.
“He has wintered very well and we have been pleased with preparation, so we don’t have any negatives going into this,” the trainer said on the Godolphin website.
“William Buick has ridden him plenty lately and the whole team are very happy with where the horse is.
“It’s only two and a half weeks until the 2000 Guineas, so we feel he is not going to need the run in the Craven, but it will help click his racing brain back into gear. It’s of more benefit mentally rather than physically.”
Native Trail is currently a best-priced 11-4 favourite to provide Appleby with a first 2000 Guineas victory, with his stablemate Coroebus generally next best at around 4-1.
Appleby said: “He (Native Trail) is a very imposing looking three-year-old. To date the one thing missing off the CV here at Moulton Paddocks is a 2000 Guineas winner, so of course it’s very much on our mind.”
Aidan O’Brien, who has won the Rowley Mile Classic on a record 10 occasions, sends Star Of India across the Irish Sea in a bid to land his first Craven.
The Galileo colt looked an exciting prospect on his only previous start at Leopardstown in the autumn, while Jane Chapple-Hyam has high hopes for Claymore, who made an impressive debut here in October.
Chapple Hyam said: “It’s a big step up, but it’s on our doorstep, so I thought let’s give it a go.
“He could do with some rain, which I believe is coming, but you wouldn’t want him on good to firm first time out, you would want just good ground. He’s something for the season that I’m very much looking forward to seeing how he gets on.
“He’s in the French guineas and the 2000 Guineas and I guess at the moment I’d be leading towards France, but let’s see how he performs.”
Al Mubhir is another once-raced Newmarket winner in the mix for William Haggas and Andrew Balding saddles Convivial Maiden scorer Hoo Ya Mal, who was beaten a nose by Native Trail’s stablemate Noble Truth when last seen contesting the Listed Flying Scotsman Stakes at Doncaster in September.
Tom Marquand takes the ride on Al Mubhir and said: “Al Mubhir looks really good. The fact he came through and won a Newmarket maiden was impressive in itself. He has done really well through the winter. He is a beautiful model anyway, but he has done well for having that break.
“It is a stiff task second time out to try and win a Craven, but there is a reason he is in there and that is because William likes him and the team likes him.
“I jumped on him the other day at home and he felt great. That was the first time I sat on him and it made me look forward to this.
“As so often those Newmarket maidens turn out to be good little races and he didn’t beat a load of trees.”
The only horse to have run already this year is Kingmax, who made it third time lucky on his first start for Dave Loughnane at Kempton last month.
The field is completed by Martyn Meade’s dual winner Zechariah, who makes his seasonal bow, with the trainer’s assistant and son, Freddie, hoping he can book his place in one of the Classics.
“Obviously with the Godolphin horse in there it is a big ask, but he has done brilliantly well over the winter and his form at the backend of last year was very good.”
The son of Nathaniel scored in a maiden over seven-furlongs at Sandown and followed up over a mile in a conditions race at Newbury in September.
“We were really pleased with his last run at Newbury,” said Meade.
“He has really strengthened up over the winter and his pedigree suggests he was going to be a much better three-year-old than two-year-old and he was just a bit of a shell last year. He has done really well, filled out and is a lot stronger.
“He is in the race at Newbury and we need to find out where we are with him and throwing him in a race like the Craven will show us where we are.”
Though entered in the Derby, Meade feels he is showing all the signs that a mile to 10 furlongs would suit him at present.
“I think, at the moment, his sectionals suggest that he has the speed for these sort tips,” Meade admitted.
“The Craven is very much a starting point to see where we are for the rest of the season.”